Apartment towers up to 75 storeys proposed for Woolloongabba to alleviate housing crisis opposed by Greens

A plan to build more high-density apartments and affordable housing to combat Brisbane’s cost-of-living crisis has received stiff opposition from the Greens.

The proposed Woolloongabba Priority Development Area (PDA) would allow developers to circumvent council planning laws and build 75-storey apartment towers.

The Queensland government’s stated aims are to speed up the approvals process to build more higher-density homes to fill the shortage of houses.

In exchange, developers would be obliged to make at least 20 per cent of their new developments social or affordable housing.

The government estimates the PDA will build over 14,000 new dwellings over the next 40 years for the area flagged as Brisbane’s “second CBD”.

The plan specifies that taller towers must satisfy requirements around housing diversity, affordability, and sustainability to be green-lit.

The plan includes open spaces, bicycle lanes, and walkways linking to the upcoming underground Cross River Rail station and proposed Brisbane Metro station.

The Queensland government plans to make Woolloongabba’s Cross River Rail Station a central hub for the area.(Supplied: Cross River Rail Delivery Authority)

The MP for Woolloongabba’s South Brisbane electorate, the Greens’ Amy MacMahon, said the 20 per cent affordable housing requirement was too low since it meant 80 per cent of houses would be unaffordable.

She said the plan would allow developers to build “75-storey luxury towers” without adequate infrastructure to accommodate the larger population.

Furthermore, the Greens housing spokesperson said she opposed PDAs in general as an “extremely undemocratic” tool which reduced community consultation and enriched developers.

“Priority Development Areas are a tool that have been written by the state government to ram through these controversial projects out for the benefit of property developers,” Dr MacMahon said.

“Building these tall towers aren’t going to solve the housing crisis, there’s still going to be thousands of Queenslanders who can’t find somewhere affordable to live.”

Dr MacMahon said developers should be obliged to include public housing in any new development they build. 

Filling the shortfalls

YIMBY Qld chief executive Natalie Rayment said there was a severe shortage of housing in Brisbane, especially medium and high-density apartments.

The pro-development activist said Woolloongabba was the prime location for dense homes since it was close to hospitals, transport, knowledge-based businesses, and the CBD.

Ms Rayment said this was “affordability by design” since small apartments were cheaper to build than entire homes.

A woman next to a bush

Natalie Rayment says Woolloongabba is an ideal location for new housing options. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Kenji Sato)

“I think the plan is an important one for Brisbane which is going to create uplift and housing development, particularly around our key amenity and transport nodes,” Ms Rayment said.

“I do like the idea that social and affordable housing is provided in all neighbourhoods, not concentrated in any one area. So I think 20 per cent is a good baseline.”

Dr MacMahon said she doubted claims that building more houses would drive down the cost of rent.

She said the government instead needed to introduce rent freezes, vacant property levies, and rent hike caps to combat soaring rents.

“Even in areas where you’ve gotten this big influx of supply it hasn’t actually brought down the cost of housing,” Dr MacMahon said.

“In places like West End and South Brisbane rents have only ever continued to go up.”

State Development and Infrastructure Minister Grace Grace said the plan would build more houses, limit urban sprawl, and reduce car dependency.

“It is a shame to see the Greens are opposed to providing much needed housing in their own backyard,” Ms Grace said.

“Priority Development Areas provide the forward-planning and adaptability, combined with a 20 per cent social or affordable housing target vital to a state growing as fast as Queensland.”

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